I just went for a walk around genteel Hertford and overheard about 30 F***s. F*** is no longer a swear word in the UK.
But it certainly was in the 17th century in puritanical Jamestown. If you said it once, or twice, you had a bodkin shoved through your tongue. If you said it three times, you were put to death. That’s a f***ing serious punishment.
And F*** was still taboo n 1882 when The Times got into terrible trouble for using F*** in a parliamentary report: “The speaker said he felt inclined for a bit of f***ing.”
As recently as the sixties, the critic Ken Tynan was lambasted for saying it on the BBC, resulting in several parliamentary motions and official apologies.
But when Bono of U2 recently said “f***ing brilliant” in front of millions of viewers on live American TV, there were just 200 complaints (which is tiny in US media terms).
Now the Federal Communication Commission has declared that “f***ing” is OK, if used ‘properly’. By ‘properly’, they mean ‘casually’, as an intensifier of meaning rather than about, um, “activities or functions.”
F*** is now a stlye-statement rather than a taboo word. French Connection UK know that only too well. In 1997, they were just muddling along. So they decided to have fun (and shock the nation’s dyslexics) with their naughty acronym FCUK. The risk paid off. Their profits soared from £6 million to £19 million.
And it seems c*** is heading in the same direction. When John Lydon said it live on peak-time ITV recently, there were fewer than 100 complaints from over 10 million viewers.
Some facts about F*** :
It’s not AngloSaxon, as popularly supposed, but originates in Sanskrit and the Norse word “Fokkar”.
For centuries, it was replaced in England by the word “swive.”
It wasn’t mentioned in English Literature till the late 16th Century.
It was a criminal offence to publish the word till 1960.
Philip Larkin’s use of F is the most frequently-quoted occurence.
F*** is the title of a popular Finnish magazine.
F*** once appeared on BBC Radio 4‘s The Archers (in 1995) but…in French.
OK. Now f*** off and read another bit of Peacockshock.